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Music from Big Pink

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Music from Big Pink
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 1, 1968
RecordedEarly 1968
ProducerJohn Simon
The Band chronology
Music from Big Pink
The Band
Singles from Music from Big Pink
  1. "The Weight" / "I Shall Be Released"
    Released: August 1968

Music from Big Pink is the debut studio album by the Band.[2] Released in 1968, it employs a distinctive blend of country, rock, folk, classical, R&B, blues, and soul. The music was composed partly in "Big Pink", a house shared by bassist/singer Rick Danko, pianist/singer Richard Manuel and organist Garth Hudson in West Saugerties, New York. The album itself was recorded in studios in New York and Los Angeles in 1968,[3] and followed the band's backing of Bob Dylan on his 1966 tour (as the Hawks) and time spent together in upstate New York recording material that was officially released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes, also with Dylan. The cover artwork is a painting by Dylan.

In 2000 the album was rereleased with additional outtakes from the recording sessions, and in 2018 a "50th Anniversary Super Deluxe" edition was released with a new stereo mix by Bob Clearmountain.

Background and Big Pink house[edit]

"Big Pink" in 2006

The Band's members included Danko, Manuel, Hudson, guitarist Robbie Robertson and drummer/singer Levon Helm. They began to create their distinctive sound during 1967 when they improvised and recorded with Bob Dylan a huge number of cover songs and original Dylan material in the basement of a pink house in West Saugerties, New York, located at 56 Parnassus Lane (formerly 2188 Stoll Road). The house was built by Ottmar Gramms, who bought the land in 1952. The house was newly built when Rick Danko found it as a rental. Danko moved in along with Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel in February 1967. The house became known locally as "Big Pink" for its pink siding. The house was subsequently sold by Gramms in 1977, and since 1998, it has been a private residence.[4]

Widely bootlegged at the time, initially as Great White Wonder in July 1969, some of the recordings Dylan and the Band made were officially released in 1975 on The Basement Tapes, and then in their totality in 2014 on The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete. By the end of 1967 the Band felt it was time to step out of Dylan's shadow and make their own statement.[5]


The Band's manager Albert Grossman (who was also Dylan's manager) approached Capitol Records to secure a record deal for a group still informally described as "Dylan's backing band". Alan Livingston at Capitol signed the Band, initially under the name the Crackers. Armed with news of a recording deal for the group, they lured Levon Helm back from the oil rigs where he had been working to Woodstock where he took up his crucial position in the Band, singing and playing drums. Helm's return coincided with a ferment of activity in Big Pink as the embryonic Band not only recorded with Dylan but also began to write their own songs.[5]

After meeting with producer John Simon, the Band started to record their debut album in Manhattan at A&R Studios, at 799 7th Avenue in the early months of 1968. The Band recorded "Tears of Rage", "Chest Fever", "We Can Talk", "This Wheel's On Fire" and "The Weight" in two sessions. Robertson has said that when Simon asked them how they wanted it to sound, they replied, "Just like it did in the basement."[6]

Capitol, pleased with the initial recording session, suggested that the group move to Los Angeles to finish recording their first album at Capitol Studios. They also cut some material at Gold Star Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard. The songs on Big Pink recorded in L.A. were "In A Station", "To Kingdom Come", "Lonesome Suzie", "Long Black Veil" and "I Shall Be Released".[7]


Dylan offered to sing on the album, but ultimately realized it was important for the Band to make their own statement. Instead, Dylan signified his presence by contributing a cover painting. Barney Hoskyns has written that it is significant the painting depicts six musicians. The cover of Music from Big Pink was intended to establish the group as having a different outlook from the psychedelic culture of 1968. Photographer Elliott Landy flew to Toronto to photograph the assembled Danko, Manuel, Robertson, and Hudson families on the Danko chicken farm. A photo was inserted of Diamond and Nell Helm, who lived in Arkansas. The photo appeared on the cover with the caption "Next of Kin".[8] The overall design of the sleeve is by Milton Glaser (who also did the poster that was packed with the 1967 Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits).


Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[11]
Entertainment WeeklyA[12]
MusicHound Rock5/5[14]
Rolling Stone[17]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[18]

The initial reception to the album was positive.[9][19] It received praise for the organic quality of the instrumentation, which had been recorded live without overdubbing.[20] In Rolling Stone, Al Kooper's rave review of Big Pink ended with the words, "This album was recorded in approximately two weeks. There are people who will work their lives away in vain and not touch it."[21] This helped to draw public attention to it (Rolling Stone even referred to them as "the band from Big Pink"[22] instead of just "the Band"). The fact that Bob Dylan wrote one and co-wrote two of the songs on the album also attracted attention. Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic in The Village Voice, while crediting the music's original evocation of "country-soul feeling without imitating it" and the "human roughness around the edges", [20] but stating: he "always admired that album" but "from a distance".[23]

In 1968, "The Weight" peaked at No. 63 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart in the US. The song was a bigger hit elsewhere, peaking at No. 35 in Canada, and No. 21 in the UK. The album peaked at No. 18 in Canada[24] and reached No. 30 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart in 1968, and then recharted as a No. 8 hit on the Top Internet Albums chart in 2000. "The Weight" gained widespread popularity from the Band's performance of it at Woodstock on August 17, 1969, and due partially to its inclusion in the film Easy Rider, though it was omitted from the soundtrack because of licensing issues. A cover version by the band Smith was included on the soundtrack album instead.

The laid-back feel of the album attracted the attention of other major artists. For example, Eric Clapton cites the album's roots rock style as what convinced him to quit Cream, and engage Delaney and Bonnie and friends as "Derek and the Dominos" on his debut solo album. George Harrison was also impressed by the album's musicianship and sense of camaraderie, and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd called it the second "most influential record in the history of rock and roll", after the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and said that it "affected Pink Floyd deeply, deeply, deeply". According to Terry Burrows, the album spawned the Americana genre,[25] while music academic Chris Smith said its songs laid the groundwork for roots rock music.[26]

Music from Big Pink was voted No. 452 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[27] In 2003, it was ranked 34th on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[28] a ranking it maintained on the magazine's 2012 revised list,[29] before dropping to number 100 in a 2020 revised list.[30] On Metacritic, the expanded 50th anniversary edition of the album receives an aggregate score of 99 out of 100, based on seven reviews, a rating that the website defines as indicating "universal acclaim".[31]


"Big Pink" in 2023

The original LP record issue included a gatefold cover in 1968, duplicated 40 years later in 2008 as a remastered 180 gm LP. On compact disc, it was remastered as a gold CD in 1989, as a DVD-audio in 2001 and as a remastered numbered edition SACD in 2009. On August 29, 2000, it was reissued by EMI Records as a standard compact disc with nine bonus tracks. In 2012, Mobile Fidelity released a remastered, numbered, limited edition, Half-speed Mastering from the original master tapes, 180g LP pressed at RTI.

In 2018, a 50th Anniversary Edition was released with an entirely new stereo mix and 5.1 mix by Bob Clearmountain, mastered by Bob Ludwig. It also included some of the additional tracks from the 2000 re-release, and a new vocal-only mix of "I Shall Be Released".[32]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalLength
1."Tears of Rage"Bob Dylan, Richard ManuelManuel5:23
2."To Kingdom Come"Robbie RobertsonManuel, Robertson3:22
3."In a Station"ManuelManuel3:34
4."Caledonia Mission"RobertsonRick Danko2:59
5."The Weight"RobertsonHelm with Danko4:34
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalLength
1."We Can Talk"ManuelManuel, Helm, Danko3:06
2."Long Black Veil"Marijohn Wilkin, Danny DillDanko3:06
3."Chest Fever"RobertsonManuel5:18
4."Lonesome Suzie"ManuelManuel4:04
5."This Wheel's on Fire"Dylan, DankoDanko3:14
6."I Shall Be Released"DylanManuel3:19
  • Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–11 on CD reissues.


The Band

Additional personnel

2018 remix


  1. ^ Goldstein, Richard (August 4, 1968). "'Big Pink' Is Just a Home in Saugerties". The New York Times. p. 20D – via TimesMachine. ... we needn't wait for The Byrds [to release Sweetheart of the Rodeo] to understand what the country-rock synthesis is all about. Already, the movement has its first major album: Music From Big Pink by The Band.
  2. ^ "25 best Canadian debut albums ever". CBC Music. Retrieved 2024-05-27.
  3. ^ Bowman, Rob. "History of The Band: The Debut Album". theband.hiof.no. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
  4. ^ Wilson, William. "Historic Buildings in Rock'n'Roll History". rocknrolltravel.co.uk. Archived from the original on October 24, 2019. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Hoskyns, 1993, Across The Great Divide, pp. 141-145
  6. ^ Hoskyns, 1993, Across The Great Divide, pp. 146-155
  7. ^ Hoskyns, 1993, Across The Great Divide, pp. 156-159
  8. ^ Hoskyns, 1993, Across The Great Divide, pp. 163-166
  9. ^ a b Ruhlmann, William. Music From Big Pink at AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-06-19.
  10. ^ "The Band: Music from Big Pink". DownBeat: 66. October 2001.
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Funkadelic". Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 2390. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  12. ^ Scherman, Tony (September 1, 2000). "Music Review: 'The Band'". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 2019-04-17. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  13. ^ "The Band – Music from Big Pink CD Album". CD Universe. Archived from the original on 2011-07-05. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
  14. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel, eds. (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 72. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.
  15. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Band: Music From Big Pink Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  16. ^ Bauldie, John (April 1996). "The Band: Music from Big Pink". Q: 120.
  17. ^ "The Band: Music from Big Pink". Rolling Stone. August 31, 2000. pp. 69–73.
  18. ^ Brackett, Nathan, with Hoard, Christian (eds) (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th edn). New York, NY: Fireside. p. 42. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  19. ^ Multiple sources:
  20. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (December 1969). "In Memory of the Dave Clark Five". The Village Voice. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  21. ^ Kooper, Al (10 August 1968). "Records". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  22. ^ "Big Pink Band To Tour U.S.". Rolling Stone. No. 30. April 5, 1969. p. 9.
  23. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: L". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 1, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  24. ^ "RPM Top 50 Albums - October 21, 1968" (PDF).
  25. ^ Burrows, Terry (2015). The Stratocaster Manual: Buying, Maintaining, Repairing, and Customizing Your Fender and Squier Stratocaster. Voyageur Press. p. 176. ISBN 978-0760349229.
  26. ^ Smith, Chris (2009). 101 Albums that Changed Popular Music. Oxford University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0195373714.
  27. ^ Colin Larkin (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 163. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  28. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2010-01-12. Archived from the original on June 12, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-19.
  29. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2019.
  30. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
  31. ^ "Music from Big Pink [50th Anniversary] by The Band Reviews and Tracks". Metacritic. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  32. ^ Morris, Chris (24 August 2018). "Album Review: The Band's 'Music From Big Pink: 50th Anniversary Edition'". Variety. Retrieved 31 December 2018.


  • Hoskyns, Barney (1993). Across The Great Divide: The Band and America. Viking. ISBN 0-670-841447.
  • Landy, Elliott (2015). The Band Photographs 1968-1969. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-4950-2251-7.

External links[edit]